Overview of the Immune System and Its Pharmacological Targets

  • Clinton B. MathiasEmail author


The immune system plays a vital role in maintaining the balance between health and disease. Immune cells provide protection against various pathogenic organisms, protecting the host from infection and injury to health. This protection is essential for the survival of the host and contributes to the overall health and longevity of individuals. In contrast, dysregulation of the immune system, resulting in overactive immune responses or autoimmunity are detrimental to the host, and induce tissue damage and development of disease. Chronic inflammation is associated with a number of diseases such as allergy, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer. This chapter will provide a general overview of the immune system and the principles of the innate and adaptive immune responses. The various cells and molecules of the innate and adaptive immune systems will be discussed and their role in immunity will be examined. In the second half of the chapter, we will examine pharmacological approaches to treating inflammation, and will discuss the various classes of drugs that target immune cells and their mediators. These include drugs that cause immunosuppression, those that prevent the proliferation of immune cells, and those that modulate immune activity. The suggested reading list at the end of the chapter highlights major discoveries in the field of immunology during the last two centuries that have advanced our current understanding of immunology and medicine.


Immune Inflammation Innate Adaptive cytokine Interleukin Primary immune responses Secondary immune responses Immune memory T cell activation B cell activation Antibodies Glucocorticoids Anti-proliferative agents Calcineurin inhibitors Biologics 

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Pharmaceutical and Administrative SciencesCollege of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Western New England UniversitySpringfieldUSA

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